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FBU Conference: Firefighters back pension campaign continuation

FIREFIGHTERS overwhelmingly voted to continue their dispute over pensions yesterday, rejecting arguments that strike fatigue had set in among members.

Brigades have been locked in a bitter dispute with bosses over government reforms that raise the retirement age from 55 to 60 and force employees to pay more into their pensions.

Following hard-won support from Ed Miliband, the Fire Brigades Union had hoped that an incoming Labour government could be lobbied to reverse the changes pushed through by the Con-Dem coalition.

At the union’s conference, general secretary Matt Wrack said the union could either move quickly to more strikes, ditch the dispute entirely or “keep the dispute live with a view to strike again.”

But the union did not sufficiently know “the mood of our members” to either up the ante or drop the campaign.

Saying there were still significant concessions to be won, he added: “We need to continue to campaign on pensions despite the setback.”

But Gloucestershire brigade secretary Mike Tully said his members were “not prepared to take further discontinuous strike action unless there is evidence that there are clear gains to be made.”

And Mick Nicholas, who represents black and minority ethnic members on the FBU executive, added: “If anyone thinks their members are up for further strike action over pay, you’re kidding yourselves.”

Kensington and Chelsea brigade secretary Yusuf Timms, who had addressed a fringe meeting on Tuesday night where speakers had called for the union to commit to strike at least one day every four weeks, said the union leadership had sought to apportion blame for the lack of success to members.

Hitting back, Mr Wrack said there was still a willingness to strike among members.

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